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  • Joe Graviss

Legislative Update - July 14th, 2020 - Summer Programs for Gifted Students in Kentucky

Western Kentucky University - Home of The Gatton Academy

Hi everybody,

For several decades now, many of Kentucky’s brightest middle and high school students have willingly spent part of their summer vacation back in the classroom.


The gifted-education programs the students attend, however, are much different than what they experience during the school year.  Classes are held on college campuses, there are no report cards and the subjects don’t fall neatly into categories like math, science and English.  Instead, those attending may learn how to start a business, argue a case as part of a mock trial, or build a house with Habitat for Humanity.


As it has in virtually every other area of our lives, the coronavirus is putting a damper on this summer’s programs, most of which have moved online if they’re being held at all.  The Governor’s Scholars Program appears to be the lone exception, because the state has approved safety protocols allowing students to attend one of two college campuses for a week-long event.


This program is the most well-known of those held in the summer, and since it began in 1983, more than 30,000 students have taken part.  One of its original goals was to keep more of these students here in the commonwealth after graduating high school.  That mission has largely been accomplished, since surveys show four out of five enroll each year at an in-state college or university and roughly the same percentage has made Kentucky their home as adults.


A few years after that program began, another one – the Governor’s School for the Arts – gave students a chance to showcase and improve their artistic talents, from writing and drama to painting and photography.  More than 6,000 students have attended overall.


The newest Governor’s Scholar program, this one for young entrepreneurs, got its start in 2013, and its combined enrollment over the past seven years has topped 400 students.


This program has given them a significant boost in turning ideas into something marketable.  In fact, 10 new businesses have been launched by students attending the program, and many others have filed patents.  Steve Case, who co-founded AOL, said he wished “there were more programs like it.”


For younger students, Western Kentucky University has long been home to two programs designed to boost gifted-education opportunities.  Those are the Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth (VAMPY) and the Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students (SCATS).


WKU is also home to the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, which began a little more than a decade ago, while Morehead State University opened the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics in 2015.


Together, these two schools are giving a select group of high school juniors and seniors from across Kentucky a chance to learn in a college setting, where they earn up to 60 hours of credit by the time they receive their high school diploma.  It’s worth noting that Newsweek has more than once ranked the Gatton Academy as the best high school in the United States.


As these programs show, Kentucky has compiled a significant roster of programs for our gifted and talented students, and the relatively small investment has paid huge dividends.  If you have a child, or know of one, who would be interested in taking part, I encourage you to fill out an application or schedule a visit with a school counselor.


If there is any way I can be of help, either with this or something else affecting the state, let me know.  You can send me an email at, or you can leave me (or any legislator) a message at 800-372-7181.


Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.

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